By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"It is, and it isn't," she says. "It's just a way for the fans to have something of his. You never know how long you're going to be here." Just then, the music ends, and she joins Norwine in the auction room, which tonight is hot, humid and jam-packed with fans.
The weekend's first two sessions have gone extraordinarily well--more than $1 million in winning bids already, including $131,450 for Cobain's guitar. Norwine can hardly contain himself during the Holly auction; he bobs like a buoy. Maria Elena's more serene. She grins for the first time when Buddy's bow tie sells for $4,182.50; Norwine gives her a told-ya-so smile. The passport--"a one-of-a-kind item [from the] U.K. tour that made the future founders of such British groups as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones aware of Holly's genius," pimps the catalog--gets caught up in some breakaway bidding. An opening bid of $7,000 is quickly erased by higher and higher offers till at last it goes for $26,290 to an Internet bidder. Clap, clap, clap; grin, grin, grin. But when the auctioneer announced "lot 107," the throng lets loose with a collective murmur. It is, of course, the watch. But there is no protracted period of bidding: It starts at $85,000 and goes for $130,000, plus an additional $25,000 to Heritage. It's over in five seconds. Norwine and Mrs. Holly look at each other and exchange six-figure smiles.
Two days later, Norwine will explain that the watch was sold to a woman in Northern California. She and her husband had never collected a thing in their lives, but they wanted just the right piece to put in the game room of their new house. She's just "a well-heeled fan," Norwine says--his kind of buyer, a first-timer with deep pockets and a far-out love for a dead pop star. They're going to make Heritage a fortune.
"Imagine having Buddy Holly's watch or having a glass case with Johnny Carson's microphone inside that says, 'Johnny's mike...Not Ed's...not Fred's,'" Norwine says. "The microphone and the watch--that's not a comic book, that's not a stamp. That's one piecethat just speaks volumes. And nobody else has anything like it."